From the May 14 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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Before Karl Rove was questioning Hillary Clinton's viability to enter the 2016 presidential race given her health and age, he was expressing outrage at Democratic political operatives who examined the age of an even older presidential candidate.
When Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was battling Obama for the presidency in the spring of 2008, he was 71 years old. At that time Rove told Fox's America's News HQ that it was "reprehensible" to suggest McCain's age was a liability (emphasis added):
HEMMER: All right. Let's shift our focus now to John McCain. Howard Dean and the DNC is circulating a rather extensive study that they have done in 17 different swing states across the country and they conclude that the age of John McCain is hurting him with some of these moderate voters. What is your take on that as they take on McCain?
ROVE: You know, look, I think this is really reprehensible on Dean's part. First of all, I don't accept the argument because if Senator McCain were having a problem with independents because of his age, he would not be tied or slightly ahead of or slightly behind either Clinton or Obama in all of these national polls. In fact, right now, he should be way, way behind both Obama and Clinton and he's not. In fact, he's ahead of them in most of the national polls.
And, I think, this is really - I mean, the Democrats have done this before. We saw this drama being played out and their story being spun out on the same way in 1979 and 1980 when Ronald Reagan was on the ballot. And I think, it's going to probably be as unhelpful to Democratic cause again this year.
Fast forward six years to Rove justifying his speculation that Hillary Clinton may have suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2012 fall by suggesting it's customary to question a potential presidential candidate's age and health. From America's Newsroom on May 13 (emphasis added):
ROVE: My other point is, this will be an issue in the 2016 race whether she likes it or not. Every presidential candidate is asked for all of their health records, by The New York Times, they turn them over -- and vice presidential candidates -- they turn them over to a battery of doctors and they examine them in detail. And my point was, that everybody says she's going to run and she probably is. But I would bet it's a more complicated calculation than we might think because, look, she'll be 69 by the time of the 2016 elections. She will be 77 if she serves two terms. And this ends up being an issue. I would remind you, John McCain - here's the headline from U.S. News and World Report: "McCain's age and past health problems could be an issue in the presidential campaign." This happens every presidential campaign.
When you go through a health incident like this, any presidential candidate, any presidential candidate has to ask themselves, am I willing to do this for eight years of my life, serve? And run for two years and then serve for eight? And particularly when you're, you know, it's a natural thing to say, when I'm 69 years old, 77 -
HEMMER: I think that's a calculation for everybody. Quickly -
Fox News has resurrected a debunked, six-year old smear against President Obama as part of its desperate attempt at damage control in the wake of network contributor Karl Rove's baseless accusation that Hillary Clinton is suffering from brain damage.
On May 14, Fox News aired a sound bite from a 2008 CNN interview with then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and CNN's Wolf Blitzer in which Obama states: "And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination." Co-hosts Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck used the clip to recycle an old, debunked talking point that Obama was suggesting Sen. John McCain was "off his rocker" because he "was getting older." Fox then used this clip to argue that attacks on a political opponent's mental health occurs on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to paint Rove's recent comments suggesting Hillary Clinton had brain damage as "not unusual":
HASSELBECK: In 2008 Obama suggested McCain lost his bearings because he was getting older in fact.
DOOCY: Okay so where's the press attacking then Senator Obama for suggesting that John McCain was off his rocker? There wasn't any because you know there's just a double standard when it comes the left and the right in the mainstream media.
This attack dates back to 2008 when conservative media first tried to twist Obama's interview to claim he was attacking McCain's age. But even then, Obama's spokesman insisted that the comment was taken out of context while pointing out that "clearly losing one's bearing has no relation to age."
The transcript of the interview reveals that Obama was responding to McCain's smear where he claimed "Obama is favored by Hamas." Obama addressed the comment in the interview by pointing out that McCain had previously promised not to "run that kind of politics" by leading a smear campaign, and that by engaging in this negative campaigning, McCain had violated his pledge.
Rove's suggestion that Hillary Clinton might have brain damage from a 2012 concussion was widely criticized, yet conservative media have continued to politicize her health. Fox's efforts to exhume the thoroughly-debunked lies surrounding the 2008 campaign in an effort to run defense for Rove shows just how far the network is willing to go to smear Hillary Clinton and score political points in the next presidential election.
Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt insisted that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton release records from an MRI, purporting she showed signs of "psychosis" after her 2012 fall, echoing a lie created by Karl Rove to smear the possible 2016 presidential candidate.
In a May 13 Washington Times column, Charles Hurt suggested Clinton release MRI records from her 2012 concussion, accusing her of showing "varying degrees of psychosis," and claiming she showed an "inability to relate to the pain" of the families of the Benghazi victims. Hurt argued that it is "just and fitting" for voters to be "informed about the mental fitness of our politicians seeking higher office":
[T]he terrorist attack in Benghazi proved that Mrs. Clinton certainly wasn't up to the task.
After months of dodging, evasions and doctors' visits, Mrs. Clinton finally lashed out in public about the attack. "What difference at this point does it make!" she bellowed at her interlocutors.
Well, the families of the four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, would like clear answers and closure. They would like to know why Mrs. Clinton and the White House were far more interested in immediately covering up their handling of the attack than protecting American property and personnel in the first place.
This inability to relate to the pain felt by those around her is a frequent sign of varying degrees of psychosis.
In any event it was an awkward MRI moment that should have gotten the former first lady checked into a rubber room for further evaluation
And, if she really wants to be president, the American people have a right to know what the results of that MRI showed.
Two Bush administration veterans have now stated that Karl Rove's comments about Hillary Clinton's health were an intentional effort to push the story into the media, raising significant questions about whether media will be complicit in his smear campaign.
When Rove was quoted wildly speculating that Clinton might have a "traumatic brain injury" following her 2012 concussion and blood clot -- both of which she fully recovered from, according to doctors -- it continued conservative media's months-long efforts to politicize Clinton's health. But new reports suggest Rove's vicious and false attack was calculated to divert more mainstream media attention to Clinton's age and health.
The May 14 Politico Playbook features an anonymous Bush official email which claims that Rove "accomplished exactly what he wanted to" by forcing media to discuss her health and potentially giving her "more reasons to stay out of the race":
A Bush administration alumnus emails: "Karl accomplished exactly what he wanted to: ... Give Hillary more reasons to stay out of the race. Because if she gets in -- no matter how much people villainize him for saying it -- Hillary's health is now a real issue to be discussed. If having to deal with uncomfortable media scrutiny is what will keep her out of the race, this just upped the ante significantly, especially if there is anything healthwise going on, even a small matter. It was a brilliant shot across the bow, even if it was a cheap shot."
Nicolle Wallace, former communications director for the Bush White House and 2004 re-election campaign, also explained on Morning Joe that "Karl didn't just stumble into this line of questioning about Hillary Clinton's health, OK? He is one of the most prepared and deliberate speakers ... I think that the fact that we're having a three day conversation about Hillary's age and health may have been his objective."
While both of these accounts are illuminating looks into Rove's tactics, they also raise significant questions about the media's complicity in pushing these smears. The Morning Joe panel laughed about Rove's remarks (host Joe Scarborough even questioned if Rove himself was "brain damaged,") but as Wallace noted, they were still discussing Rove's falsehood and giving it significant airtime. Similarly, Politico Playbook featured five separate paragraphs hyping "Rove vs. Clinton."
But if we're all just laughing at Rove's ridiculous, malicious attacks, does it matter? According to Peter Beinart at The Atlantic, it does; the media fixation not only proves Rove's tactics worked, but sets up a dangerous precedent where media become complicit in keeping the smear alive (emphasis added):
Why does Rove allegedly smear his opponents this way? Because it works. Consider the Clinton "brain damage" story. Right now, the press is slamming Rove for his vicious, outlandish comments. But they're also talking about Clinton's health problems as secretary of state, disrupting the story she wants to tell about her time in Foggy Bottom in her forthcoming memoir.
Assuming she runs, journalists will investigate Clinton's medical history and age. Now Rove has planted questions that will lurk in their minds as they report.
The idea of journalists and pundits entirely unable to distance their minds from a smear they know to be false is a frightening image -- but it's not as inevitable as Beinart implies. After all, in the same Morning Joe segment, Scarborough (himself a conservative) refused to legitimize Rove's comments by entertaining any discussion of Clinton's age more broadly. Instead, he accurately noted that the fact Clinton would be 69 when inaugurated (if she were to run in 2016 and win) should not be a factor, as Ronald Reagan was inaugurated at 69 and left office at 77. (And as The National Journal has pointed out, because Clinton is female her life expectancy is significantly longer than Reagan's, making any attacks on her age even more nonsensical.)
Media has a responsibility to report the facts, but they also have the ability to choose to not let smears influence how they go looking for those facts. They can laugh at Rove's absurd, desperate jabs without letting them "lurk," and without becoming complicit in his smear campaign. The question is, will they?
For someone who expresses concern about partisans who take the "low road" and wallow in "reckless rhetoric," Karl Rove did a pretty good public impersonation of both this week with his "bizarre" attacks on Hillary Clinton.
Rove, of course, is no stranger to smear campaigns. Just ask associates of Anne Richards, John McCain, John Kerry and Valerie Plame, to name a few. Which is why it was always preposterous for Rove to launch a years-long etiquette campaign lecturing President Obama on the "politics of civility" in his Wall Street Journal columns. I mean, Rove draws a generous paycheck from Fox News, which has nearly run out of corrosive insults to hurl at Obama after six years.
So yes, Rove's glass house is visible to everyone.
But there was something especially hypocritical about Rove taking a break from his "civility" sermons to launch one of the most classless attacks of the political year, reportedly suggesting Hillary Clinton was physically and mentally incapacitated, indelicately portraying the former secretary of state of a feeble senior citizen who had fallen and sustained "traumatic brain injury"; a possibly life-changing wound that had been concealed from the public.
From Sally Kohn at The Daily Beast:
What America needs to know is what's up with your conspiracy theory-based fear mongering that is obviously intended to simultaneously highlight Clinton's age (old people slip and fall) and undermine her credibility as a female candidate (playing to sexist stereotypes that women are mentally unstable or simply less intelligent). Mr. Rove, you make these claims purely as conjecture without any facts, fanned by the emotions of your partisanship.
Speaking at a Los Angeles event last Thursday, Rove presented Hillary's alleged health problem in such stark terms that the New York Post concluded Rove had suggested Clinton suffered from "brain damage." (Rove insists he never said that.) Rove also lied about Clinton having spent "30 days" in the hospital recovering. (It was four days.)
The slander continued during Rove's damage control tour after his comments were published. On Fox, he engaged in further, wild speculation: "We don't know what the doctors said about what does she have to be concerned about. Don't know about -- I mean she's hidden a lot of this." (Cover up!)
Hidden from whom? She's currently a private citizen. Prior to her possible presidential candidacy, Clinton's supposed to send out regular updates about her health to the general public?
Fox News' Sean Hannity repeated a false claim by Fox commentator Karl Rove, who in baselessly implying that Hillary Clinton has brain damage incorrectly asserted that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital following a fall in 2012.
Following reports that Rove questioned the recovery and health of the former secretary of state following a 2012 fall, Hannity parroted many of Rove's false assertions. Rove suggested that Clinton suffered from long-term damage after her fall and attacked the amount of time she spent in the hospital. During his May 13 Fox show, Hannity repeated Rove's false claim that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital, asking, "whoever spends 30 days in the hospital these days?" Fox commentator Dr. Marc Siegel added that Rove is "on to something here":
Hannity repeated the factually incorrect attack earlier in the day on his May 13 radio show:
Both Hannity and Rove are incorrect about the duration of Clinton's hospital stay.Clinton spent four days, not 30 days, in the hospital after a blood clot was discovered in her brain several days after her fall.
UPDATE: During the May 14 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity hosted Karl Rove to "set the record straight" about Rove's smears against Clinton. Hannity acknowledged during the interview that Clinton spent four days, not 30 days in the hospital, as both he and Rove falsely claimed. But Hannity failed to acknowledge that he had pushed the false claim that Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital:
From the May 13 edition of CNN's OutFront:
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From the May 13 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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The Fox contributor appeared on Fox News on May 13 to explain the remarks, reportedly made at a May 8 conference. His claims resurrected an event that right-wing media had previously exploited in order to smear Clinton and push a baseless claim that the administration was attempting to cover-up the truth behind the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. The then-secretary of state's testimony on the attacks before a House committee was delayed after her fall.
Rove attempted to clarify his remarks in a discussion with co-host Bill Hemmer, stating, "I didn't say she had brain damage."
HEMMER: How did this comment come up suggesting that Hillary Clinton may suffer from brain damage? Where'd that come from, Karl?
ROVE: No, no, no, no. Wait a minute. No, no. I didn't say she had brain damage. She had a serious health episode.
Rove tossed around wild speculation about Hillary's health status, claiming, "We don't know what the doctors said about what does she have to be concerned about. Don't know about -- I mean she's hidden a lot of this." In an interview with the Washington Post published after his Fox appearance, Rove is quoted as saying, "Of course she doesn't have brain damage." But he appeared to echo his speculation about her health to the Post as well:
"Of course she doesn't have brain damage," he said in an interview with The Washington Post.
But Rove said that it is apparent that Clinton suffered "a serious health episode." He added that if she runs for president in 2016, "she is going to have to be forthcoming" about the details of where, how and when it happened.
Contrary to Rove's claims on Fox, we do know happened to Clinton in 2012. She spent four days in the hospital after a blood clot was discovered in her brain several days after her fall. According to experts and the State Department, glasses worn by Clinton during her January 2013 testimony on the attacks in Benghazi were a corrective instrument meant to treat "double vision" as a result of her fall -- not traumatic brain injury.
Fox contributor Karl Rove baselessly claimed that Hillary Clinton suffered a "traumatic brain injury" in a 2012 fall while urging Republicans to keep the issue of Benghazi alive into the 2016 election.
According to the New York Post's Page Six, Rove reportedly told an audience on May 8 that he was skeptical of Clinton's recovery after the former Secretary of State fainted and fell in her home in December 2012. The fall delayed Clinton's testimony before a House committee on the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Rove suggested that Clinton's fall left some unanswered questions and attacked the amount of time she spent recovering in the hospital. Rove went on to claim that Clinton's use of corrective glasses was likely a sign of "traumatic brain injury" (emphasis added):
Onstage with Robert Gibbs and CBS correspondent and "Spies Against Armageddon" co-author Dan Raviv, Rove said Republicans should keep the Benghazi issue alive.
He said if Clinton runs for president, voters must be told what happened when she suffered a fall in December 2012.
The official diagnosis was a blood clot. Rove told the conference near LA Thursday, "Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what's up with that."
Rove repeated the claim a number of times to the audience.
Rove's claims are false, without evidence, and contrary to medical experts' opinion. Clinton spent four days, not 30 days, in the hospital after a blood clot was discovered in her brain several days after her fall. Furthermore, according to experts and the State Department, glasses worn by Clinton during her January 2013 testimony on the attacks in Benghazi were a corrective instrument meant to treat "double vision" as a result of her fall -- not brain damage.
Clinton herself explained in an outgoing interview with CBS' 60 Minutes that she had "some lingering effects from the concussion that are decreasing and will disappear," including wearing glasses instead of contact lenses. Clinton went on to share that the experience left her with a better understanding of others' injuries: "I have a lot of sympathy now when I pick up the paper and read about an athlete or one of our soldiers who's had traumatic brain injury."
Rove's baseless smear is the latest false attack on Clinton and part of the Republican drumbeat for continued investigations into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in an effort to score political points in the next presidential election.
Right wing media hid the reasons for the Obama administration's decision to delay consideration of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline while pending lawsuits and investigations progress, denouncing the move as purely "political."
After debuting in 2013 to major media coverage and virulent opposition from conservative activists, Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project political group is seemingly defunct. According to FEC filings, as of March 31, the group has $667 cash on hand after taking in only $2,214 in the first quarter of 2014.
Rove's Conservative Victory Project was announced in a 2013 New York Times article, which explained that the Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official was joining forces with "the biggest donors in the Republican Party" to create a group which would "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts." The Times reported that the "project is being waged with last year's Senate contests in mind, particularly the one in Missouri, where Representative Todd Akin's comment that 'legitimate rape' rarely causes pregnancy rippled through races across the country."
Numerous conservative figures responded to the announcement by loudly and repeatedly ripping Rove and Conservative Victory Project for its supposed betrayal of true conservatives and attempts at "fratricide." Several conservative activists went so far as to pen a letter to Crossroads donors imploring them to refuse to give money to the new group.
Whether it's directly attributable to the backlash or not, conservatives need not worry about Rove's Conservative Victory Project influencing Republican primaries this year, because the group is all-but-inoperative. As Media Matters previously reported, in the second half of 2013, Rove's group only brought in $10,798, ending the year with only $200 in cash on hand. The trend continued in the first quarter of 2014, with Conservative Victory Project apparently doing no fundraising. Between January 1 and March 31, the group brought in only $2,214, all of which came one of Rove's other political groups, American Crossroads.
While Conservative Victory Project is seemingly dead in the water, Rove's American Crossroads Super PAC continues to rake in millions of dollars, investing some of it in Republican primaries. National Journal explains that in the wake of the Conservative Victory Project kerfuffle, Crossroads' primary spending has shown the group to be "risk-averse" and treading lightly, avoiding criticizing Republicans aggressively and looking too much like the group is "handpicking" establishment candidates.
After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the GOP acknowledged it needed to change its stance on immigration and Hispanic outreach. But conservative media figures lashed out at Jeb Bush after he expressed compassion for undocumented immigrants.
Fox News attacked the Obama administration for announcing a delay to the Affordable Care Act that resembles administration delays by other presidents, such as President Bush's 2006 delay of the Medicare Part D penalty.